A family was in the midst of planning two weddings 11 weeks apart after two daughters got engaged within days of each other. I was living in Swift Current at the time and my dad was the pastor who would be officiating at both ceremonies. I was going to be the musician so I also got invited to the two receptions.
I met an elderly great aunt at the first wedding who lived quite a distance away but didn’t want to miss either of her great-niece's weddings and said she would be back in a few weeks. Some of her friends were suggesting she attend just one of gatherings but she returned for the second wedding. She told us she would likely make the effort for a sad occasion, notably a funeral, so why not make the same effort for a celebration.
A friend of mine is able to turn any day into an occasion. Observances, commemorations or an ordinary Tuesday can become a celebration when she gives it her attention. It's a special thing to be able to do—and one we could all use.
Take a moment to consider what the first weeks of 2020 have brought. Massive bushfires, floods, prison riot, missile strikes, plane crashes, militant attacks, roadside bombings, Coronavirus, earthquakes, retail bankruptcies, avalanches, Flight 752, volcanic eruptions…and that takes us into the first two weeks of January. Do you need to take a break, yet? It goes on and on and on. Heartache. Destruction. Death.
These are the events that caught the world's attention. There's so much more taking place in our individual lives. The kind of events that send us reeling. The unexpected that rips apart our reality.
We don't know when those days might come, but we know they will. That's what being in relationship with others brings along with it. People we love, people whose presence in our lives is impactful, and people who live and work amongst us will struggle. They will get sick. There will be tragedies. There will be things we will not understand but will require us to walk alongside those in pain. In devastation. In loss.
My grandfather was a pastor who served congregations in Saskatchewan, Alberta and BC. After he had been retired for quite some time he was invited by a church in BC to speak at an anniversary celebration. About a month before the event, an envelope was sitting on the kitchen table with my name on it. Inside was a plane ticket and a note from my husband that said some things were too important to miss and that I needed to be there when my grandpa spoke.
We were with him a few more times in the years that followed, and he got to see his great granddaughters a couple of times before he passed away. I wasn't there when he died but the next day we were on the road to BC heading to his funeral. As memories and reflections flooded over me, I thought back to that church anniversary more than once. It occurred before his dementia became pronounced and I was a pretty proud granddaughter sitting there that day. It's the type of event that sits in the vault of recollections I can draw from, and it's one I would have missed out on had my husband not made it happen. I saw obstacles; time off work, the expense, the interruption to other activities we had on the go. He saw a chance to celebrate something important to our family. The celebration won out. Thankfully.
A worrisome trend is the number of special events people don't show up for today, or ones they won't make an effort to attend. Most affected are birthday parties, family gatherings and weddings. Just consider how much is being missed out on. It's more than candles or confetti. It's shared joy, collective laughter and storied histories.
There are all kinds of things that will keep us busy and of course there will be events that simply don't work out. But when we can, we need to make the effort to be part of the celebrations so that we never take for granted the richness of those relationships. It exists in the day-to-day, in the ordinary, as well as in the extraordinary. The more we come together to celebrate the heartwarming the more we can count on each other in the heartbreaking. That's my outlook.